Tekken is one of the most prominent fighting franchises ever created. It was hard to own an original PlayStation and not know that you needed to own a copy of at least one of the original Tekken trilogy, if not all three. If you didn't own an original PlayStation, then you could walk into any arcade and play any of the original Tekken trilogy as well, it was that popular. It still holds a solid reputation among fighting fans, enjoying a seat on the throne akin to Soul Caliber and Street Fighter. With wacky stories, killer graphics (for the time), and complex, fun fighting style to master, rightfully made Tekken as celebrated as it is today.
The characters in fighting games are usually grouped into two groups, coolest and lamest, and the Tekken series is no exception. Featuring its own band of memorable, well designed characters that players scramble to select before their opponents can, Tekken has some of the most recognizable contenders in the history of the genre. On the other hand, Tekken also has some of the flattest, most insufferable characters in the genre as well. Whether it's poor design or uninspired choices at the development table, there are some pretty lame characters that you have to sort through whenever you fire up a Tekken installment. Let's take a look at a few of the cream of the crop and the bottom of the barrel chaff when it comes to the Tekken series.
15 Coolest: King
Inspired by both famous Japanese and Mexican lucha libre wrestlers, King may be the Tekken series' most recognizable character. After all, it is kind of hard to miss a guy in tights wearing a jaguar head. Priests saved King after he was mortally wounded after a particularly bad street fight in his younger, orphan years. He then became a priest and joined the King of Iron Fist tournament in an attempt to raise money to open up his own orphanage. Eventually killed by Ogre, his legacy is continued in King II, who continues on in the rest of the Tekken installments.
King’s backstory can be considered pretty typical for a fighting game character’s backstory, but what really sets him apart is his move set available to players in the Tekken games. King’s fighting style focuses on a plethora of grabs and quick jabs; he is one of the only characters that are able to grab opponents from a ducking or midair position. He also is able to use multistep grabs that allow for devastating amounts of damage. His fun and complex fighting style paired with his jaguar mask make king one of the coolest fighters in the Tekken series.
14 Lamest: Eddy Gordo
Eddy Gordo only ends up on the lamest section of this list because of my personal problems playing against him for the first time in Tekken 3. He sauntered out and gave his pre-fight introduction and then it was time to throw down. He then proceeded to wreck me. Now, I’ve evolved as a gamer over the years, overcoming challenges and obstacles laid out for me in a variety of games, from Bloodborne to F-Zero. But there is a unique anxiety that swims through my head every time I have to face off against Eddy Gordo.
It takes me back to bitterly flexing my PS1 controller in frustration as I watched Eddy Gordo celebrate knocking me in the dirt, again. Yes, my personal bitterness has completely dictated this list entry. I have no problems with it and you shouldn’t either. Plus, his backstory is pretty lackluster when compared to the other characters in the Tekken series.
13 Coolest: Bryan Fury
First introduced in Tekken 3, Bryan Fury has been a mainstay of the series ever since. Fury was originally an Interpol officer until he was killed in a shootout and subsequently brought back to life by the mad scientist Dr. Abel with the use of cybernetics. He is then sent out to the King of Iron Fist Tournament to target Yoshimitsu in an attempt to gather info on another mad scientist. The more I think about these storylines, the more I realize how much I didn’t question them as an adolescent playing Tekken.
Anyway, I feel like including Bryan Fury on this list because of my experience with him in Tekken Bowling; when you jump to his first person view to aim your ball, you’re treated to an advanced targeting system as a result of his cyborg resurrection.
12 Lamest: Paul Phoenix
Paul Phoenix is a white biker with Don King hair. One of the originals in the Tekken series and one of four to appear in all of the Tekken installments, Phoenix is one of the most iconic Tekken characters. His sole ambition is to become the greatest fighter in the world and has a rivalry with Kuma, a bear. Even though fans may identify the Tekken series with his signature hi-top fade, I think that he’s a lame rip off of Street Fighter’s Ken. Maybe it’s just the blonde hair and the red karate uniform, but Paul Phoenix just seems like filler for the Tekken series drafted with a tracing template of Ken.
Sure, he lacks projectile attacks and doesn’t have the same style as Ken to a tee, but Paul still seems like a filler character to me. In fact, I don’t think that the series does any better or worse without him. Even though his clunky style and rip off design may be some of the most identifiable, they are also some of the most typical and in effect, lamest.
11 Coolest: Kuma
Some may argue with my choice of having one of the Tekken series most outrageous characters listed as one of the coolest, but how could I resist not putting a fighting bear in the “cool” category? Found by Heihachi Mishima as an abandoned cub, Kuma was discovered to be extremely intelligent. Heihachi Mishima went on to teach him how to fight and, strangely enough, how to speak rudimentary Japanese. Kuma served as a bodyguard for Heihachi Mishima, also participating in the first and second King of Iron Fist tournaments where he subsequently got his bear butt kicked by Paul Phoenix. Kuma then dies while traveling with Heihachi Mishima, but not before giving birth to a cub cleverly named Kuma II. Kuma II eventually defeats Paul Phoenix in the forth King of The Iron Fist tournament.
Featuring a handkerchief wearing, Japanese-speaking bear as one of your characters is a little zany, to say the least. But being able to construct a story of revenge and retribution of man versus beast that spans through generations, elevates Kuma from just plain crazy to one of the most interesting fighting game characters in the entire Tekken series.
10 Lamest: Ogre
Now this one was difficult. This backstory is absolutely bonkers and I really wish I could have put Ogre on the “coolest” team. An ancient weapon of war left on earth by ancient aliens that used to inhabit it, Ogre is essentially the Aztec god of fighting. Like I said, I really enjoy what the designers of Tekken 3 are trying to imply here: essentially that ancient civilization was influenced by and had direct contact with aliens. Not only that, but that Aztec Gods are weapons developed and left by said aliens to continually influence the evolution of human civilization. That is insane.
Awesome backstory or not, it’s Ogre’s move set that keeps him off the “coolest” list. Featured as the end boss of Tekken 3, Ogre’s moves are mediocre at best. It just seems like a couple of recycled moves with a unique throw or two. For an end boss, that is pretty lame.
9 Coolest: Kazuya Mishima
The son of Heihachi Mishima, you know, the dad that threw him down a freaking ravine, Kazuya is the protagonist of the first Tekken game as gamers follow his quest to overthrow his father. After beating Heihachi Mishima in the first King of Iron Fist Tournament, Kazuya quickly follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes super corrupt and a jerk in general. Becoming the antagonist for most of the following Tekken games, playing with Kazuya is a blast as his fighting style is a lot of fun to master.
Kazuya Mishima really ends up on this list because he has the Devil Gene, which allows him to turn into a crazy, demonic version of himself that has a separate move set that allows you to really trounce your opponents. This is especially true in the Tekken Tag Tournament installments when you can switch to Devil Kazuma with the press of a button.
8 Lamest: Steve Fox
Nina William’s boxing son, Steve Fox’s fighting style is pretty cool. He compliments real boxing moves, like jabbing, haymakers, and hooks, with dips and darts that make you question his skeletal composition. Playing as Steve Fox is fun and his move set makes it a breeze to get the upper hand on your opponent. But it’s Steve Fox’s backstory that lands him on the lame list.
Nina’s in vitro baby that was implanted while she was cryogenically frozen by Heihachi Mishima, Steve Fox’s sole purpose in the Tekken games is to find the truth about his past after he is adopted and becomes a boxing champion. Nothing inherently wrong with that but in the scheme of Tekken backstories, it’s pretty lame. Although he does end up blowing up the Zibatsu Corporation in later installments of the series, his overall story ark is just really lacking.
7 Coolest: Heihachi Mishima
The old guy with the crazy hair that beats the crap out of people, Hehachi Mishima is the main antagonist for a few of the Tekken games. As the sole child of his parents, he overthrew his father for control of his company Mishima Zaibatsu, then imprisoned him and left his father to starve to death. He tossed his then five yard old son Kazuya down a ravine in an attempt to eliminate any “weakness” his son may have possessed. He then adopted Lee Chaolan and trained him to be his son’s rival. After Kazuya resurfaced years later, Heihachi created the King of Iron Fist tournament to test him.
So basically, Heihachi thinking that Kazuya was a wuss sparked the entire Tekken series. Pretty gnarly. Hehachi’s fighting style is nothing to scoff at either. Bearing down on an opponent with electrified chops and kicks that send them barreling across the arena are always satisfying. He also made a pretty satisfying end boss for the first entry, especially when he’s beating down on you wearing his fundoshi.
6 Lamest: Jack
A series of androids created by Heihachi’s corporation, Jack, and all his subsequent embodiments throughout the series, are made to help thin the ranks of the King of the Iron Fist Tournament. During the events of Tekken 2, Jack-2, who is an upgrade of Jack, go figure, witnesses a little girl lose her mother during battle and begins to protect her. It’s all a very cliché “machine begins to feel” storyline that has been played out a thousand times before and a thousand times after in nearly every facet of media. And it just gets worse as the series continues and the subsequent versions of Jack.
Not only does Jack’s backstory fall flat, so does his fighting style. Appropriately clunky for an archaic looking android, his fighting style is slow, powerful, and boring. When you put all the pieces together, you realize that Jack doesn’t really stand out in the Tekken series for a reason: he’s boring.
5 Coolest: Roger/Alex
A genetically modified kangaroo and velociraptor that can box like golden glove champions. Creations of Dr. Bosconovitch, Roger, and his velociraptor compatriot Alex, escapes from Kazuya Mishima’s clutches after he tries to kill them. After being taught how to wrestle by Armor King, they entered the second King of the Iron Fist tournament. I don’t really feel like I need to explain to our dear readers why a boxing kangaroo and dinosaur make it onto the coolest list for Tekken characters. Name another game where a genetically engineered boxing velociraptor beats the crap out of people. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Alex and Roger are some of the most memorable, silly, and fun to play characters in a fighting game in recent memory. They exist as a testament to the creativity and overall wackiness of the Tekken team. Writing about them now really makes me want to fire up Tekken 2 and run through arcade mode as a boxing kangaroo again. Again, there aren’t many games you can say that about.
4 Lamest: Marshall Law
A Chinese restaurateur turned martial artist, Marshall Law is the obligatory Bruce Lee tribute in the Tekken series. Pretty much an exact Xerox of Fei Long from Super Street Fighter II, Marshall Law was introduced in the original Tekken with the hopes of using the financial earnings from the King of Iron Fist tournament to open his own dojo. Another Bruce Lee tribute clone with an easily written and replaced story.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a character as a tribute to one of, if not the, greatest martial artist of all time. But, can we please not make a blatant copy of yet another Street Fighter series character? I know you can only have so much wiggle room when you’re paying tribute to someone that had a certain style when it came to fighting and clothing. But all the Tekken team had to do was look back a few years to see that it had already been done.
3 Coolest: Jin Kazama
The son of Kazuya Mishima, Jin became the main protagonist of the Tekken series after the third installment. Jin is essentially your run of the mill protagonist when it comes to fighting games; the son of one of the most evil characters in the series who then decides he is on the other side of the ethical compass and vows to vanquish evil and, in effect, his own father. Again, this is some seriously trite background story writing. Not to say it isn’t essential, of course.
Where Jin Kazama really makes the cool list is the fact that he inherited the Devil Gene from Kazuya, meaning that he gets an awesome transformation and, with it, an awesome additional move set to use against opponents. Plus, on a personal level, I always used to play with Jin on the original PS1. Run of the mill, maybe, but he is still a pivotal and steady character in the Tekken series.
2 Lamest: Mokujin
A fighting dummy that is made out of a 2,000 year old tree that is animated in order to defeat evil if humanity isn’t able to do so. I know you’re reading this and asking, “He puts the Japanese speaking bear and boxing dinosaur in coolest, what right does he have to put an animated fighting dummy carved out of an ancient tree in lamest?”
The idea of Mokujin is pretty cool as far as it backstory and his concept is equally as crazy as some of the more outlandish characters in the Tekken series. What lands our anthropomorphic tree on the lamest list is the fact that he doesn’t have any of his own moves. Mokujin is a “copycat” character, meaning that every time you play as or against it, it randomly uses one of its fellow characters fighting styles. I think that this is a lazy trend in fighting games and, if you’re going to make a sentient, butt-kicking ventriloquist dummy a character, at least make its fighting style as unique as the character itself.
1 Coolest: Yoshimitsu
One of the most beloved characters in the series and one of the only characters to appear in every installment of Tekken, Yoshimitsu is one of the coolest fighting characters ever created. Not only is his backstory interesting, but his move set is one of the most fun and original in my recent memory. Yoshimitsu is leader of the Manji clan of ninja, a clan that is dedicated to vanquishing evil and helping those in need. Wielding a glowing, cursed sword that feeds on the blood of wrongdoers and a bionic arm, he is one of the most memorable cyber ninjas in a video game.
Able to pull off rapidly spinning backhands and kicks, he’ll get dizzy and fall over if he spins too long. He carries a sword, but apart from a few typical slashes, his use of it is quite unorthodox: his flea stance lets Yoshimitsu pogo towards his opponent perched atop his sword’s hilt.